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Judas hung in effigy, Mexico City, early 20th century

The burning of Judas is an Easter-time ritual in many Orthodox and Catholic Christian communities, where an effigy of Judas Iscariot is burned. Other related mistreatment of Judas effigies include hanging, flogging, and exploding with fireworks.[1][2] Anthropologists generalize these type of activities as "scapegoating rituals". A similar ritual would be the hanging in effigy of Haman and his ten sons during Purim.

Though not an official part of the Easter liturgical cycle, the custom is typically a part of the reenactment of the story of the Passion that is practiced by the faithful during Easter. Customs vary, but the effigy of Judas is typically hanged (reenacting Matthew 27:5) on Good Friday, then burned on the night of Easter Sunday.

In many parts of Latin America this practice occurs on the eve of the new year as a symbol of ridding one's self of evil and beginning a new year in spiritual purity. Some communities observe this ritual using various effigies, including the biblical Judas (who betrayed Jesus), Satan, a harlot, or a Jew[citation needed] (represented by the stereotypical European depiction of a Jewish male with a goat beard, side locks, and a black frock coat). This custom, during which the effigy is burned on a stake, is invariably called "Quema del Año Viejo"[3] meaning literally "the burning of the old year."


Burning of Judas in Juiz de Fora, Brazil, 1909
Creating a Judas figure in form of a devil at a workshop at the Museo de Arte Popular, Mexico City.

The burning of Judas was once widely practiced across Europe, and is still practiced in parts of Greece,[4] Mexico,[5] Brazil,[6] Portugal, Spain, Uruguay, Venezuela, Cyprus where it is called 'lambratzia',[7] the Philippines, and elsewhere.

Judas burnings also took place in the district of Dingle, in Liverpool, England, in the early 20th Century,[8] until it was banned by the authorities. The burning of Judas is not traditional to England, although a very similar custom of burning Catholic rebel Guy Fawkes in effigy exists.

Allegations of antisemitism[edit]

The practice was once cited in the United States State Department's Religious Freedom Report for Greece.[9] The report incorrectly referred to the custom as the "burning of the Jew", whereas in Greece the term always used is "burning of Judas". In response, Archbishop Christodoulos, then head of the Greek Orthodox Church, denied such allegations, stating that this practice refers to the image of "Judas the traitor" and not Jews in general.[10]

In Latin America, despite the controversial nature of anti-Semitism associated with the "burning of the Jew" (one of the custom's many monikers), although the practice does exist in the above stated form it is not regarded as an act of hostility towards the Jewish nation or ethnicity but is simply representative of "evil", thus not differing in any way from the other effigies listed.[11]


  1. ^ Hanging Judas in Mexico
  2. ^ F.F.T. (1902-02-09). "Lenten Days In Mexico. - Curious Customs To Be Seen This Week In The Land Of Montezuma. - Article - Nytimes.Com". New York Times. Retrieved 2013-03-04. 
  3. ^ es:Año viejo
  4. ^ [1][dead link]
  5. ^ http://zedilloworld.presidencia.gob.mx/PAGES/culture/note_semanasanta.html
  6. ^ Novo Milênio: Histórias e Lendas de Santos: Malhação do Judas. Quem lembra?
  7. ^ [2][dead link]
  8. ^ BBC - Liverpool - Local History - Judas Burning
  9. ^ In April 2006, the Central Board of the Jewish Communities of Greece continued to protest the Easter tradition of the burning of a life-size effigy of Judas, sometimes referred to as the "burning of the Jew," which they maintained propagated hatred and fanaticism against Jews. One Greek Orthodox bishop, a local NGO, and the Wiesenthal Center wrote formal objections to this tradition.
  10. ^ ekathimerini.com | Greece is not racist, says irked archbishop
  11. ^ [3][dead link]

External links[edit]

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burning_of_Judas — Please support Wikipedia.
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169 news items

Tico Times
Mon, 21 Apr 2014 11:56:15 -0700

Police hang out after shutting down effigy burnings during illegal “Burning of Judas” ceremonies while seized effigy dolls chill on the couch. (Courtesy of Public Security Ministry). Due to a high volume of holiday vacationers, raucous beach parties ...
Mon, 21 Apr 2014 08:57:35 -0700

After two months of protests, Venezuela's bitter political strife made its way into the long standing Easter tradition, "The Burning of Judas." Capping off Holy Week, Venezuelans set ablaze their most detested figures – politicians and those they say ...


Mon, 21 Apr 2014 21:07:30 -0700

Meanwhile in Mexico, hundreds of people gather in a Mexico City suburb on Sunday to celebrate the traditional burning of Judas during the culmination of Holy Week celebrations. The crowd bursts into cheers as Judas, known locally as "Shimo", swirls as ...


Mon, 21 Apr 2014 02:42:29 -0700

Hundreds of people gathered in a Mexico City suburb on Sunday to celebrate the traditional burning of Judas during the culmination of Holy Week celebrations. The crowd burst into cheers as Judas, known locally as 'Shimo', swirled as it was illuminated ...


Mon, 21 Apr 2014 01:23:19 -0700

In a separate Easter tradition, effigies of Maduro and top government officials were set ablaze, a Venezuelan tradition known as the burning of Judas, the disciple who betrayed Jesus Christ. “I'm tired of the abuses of the government,” said Genesis ...

Deseret News

Deseret News
Sun, 20 Apr 2014 12:04:09 -0700

In this April 19, 2014 photo, fireworks explode as a group prepares to burn an effigy of Judas, in the courtyard of the Santa Rosa Xochiac church, in Mexico City, just before midnight. The Burning of Judas is an Easter-time ritual in Santa Rosa Xochiac ...
Tico Times
Thu, 17 Apr 2014 11:27:48 -0700

On Saturday, the night before Easter, Costa Rica marks the traditional “Burning of Judas,” where Catholics set flame to effigies of Judas Iscariot, the apostle who betrayed Jesus and led to his crucifixion. Though rooted in religious lore, the ...

Latin Times

Al Jazeera America
Mon, 21 Apr 2014 10:08:44 -0700

Juan Barreto / AFP / Getty Images. Easter protests in Venezuela. The burning in effigy of Maduro and other government officials is meant to evoke the burning of Judas and fits into a tradition of burning effigies on Easter as a symbol of public ...

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